Creativity = Insomnia?

I usually don’t blog here about the writing process, mostly because (a) I think everyone has his or her own process, and does whatever works for him or her, and (b) no matter what advice you get or give, you still do things in the way that makes the most sense for you.

But I had a recent epiphany, one of those “I guess I’m not crazy after all” moments. I was talking with a bunch of other mystery writers about a strange phenomenon I experience: When I’m starting to think seriously about a new book, and plotting out all the twists and turns, I get hit with major insomnia. The sleeplessness continues until I get the first draft done, which is one of the reasons I tend to knock out my first drafts quickly. I need to get back to sleep, and editing/improving the garbage of the first draft doesn’t take the same toll on my sleep cycle (in fact, it takes no toll at all).

I thought I might have been alone in this, but when I mentioned it in an informal setting (i.e., a hotel bar), a bunch of other writers immediately said that the same thing happens to them: thinking about/creating a first draft = insomnia.

My problem may be this belief that questions get answered while sleeping. So, before turning in for the night, I find myself asking, “How do I figure this out? – “How do I give character X a reason for doing Y?” – “How do I tie all this stuff up?” – hoping that the answers will have come to me, magically, while sleeping. The good news is, they often do. The bad news is, 3 months of 3 hours’ sleep a night is no way to live.

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